LFI.3 week 10 discussion

Hi all, great lecture with Myaisha Hayes from Media Justice today. I’ll share her resource list when she shares it with me. In the meantime, I’m interested in talking further about the provocation she started the lecture with, about what makes us actually feel safe vs what surveillance tells us makes us safe. I think this is an interesting angle to the “privacy vs security” argument as well, because surveillance says “marginalized people lose their privacy for privileged people to feel secure”.

I’m interested in how folks here would bring this conversation to their communities, especially in encouraging the kind of local action that Myaisha talked about at the very end of the call. And also I’d love any other thoughts or questions you had from the talk.

I have thought about this idea of how you can’t ‘buy’ security often over the last few days. I’ve even run it by my kids to see what their reaction would be. It seems to get at this common idea that money affords a person luxuries. Are privacy and security a luxury? Maybe in a world that has increasingly gone online.

I’ve often thought about applying to be on a city board. Some of them have requirements that I’m not qualified for but others like the Board of Ethics review some conflict of interest type situations that may happen in a city. In my view this is a way to connect outside of the library community and have a seat at the community level govt discussions. I am not a hob-nobber, though, and hate the idea of ‘who you know’ and have had plenty of experience with name-dropping and someone else’s idea of ‘influencing’. I struggle with the idea of the real work being boots on the ground vs affecting policy through power mapping. In a dream world I’m a conduit of power for those marginalized and their success influences power structures.

So, clearly, the idea of buying a feeling of security is false - it’s framework of capitalism. We have a community obligation to pursue genuine relationships with real people, both those in positions of power and those not. We have to create environments of learning (i.e. libraries) where no one is asking to overpower one another in order for some action of equity to be in place. The feeling carried over might be one of power in the individual but the privileged need to disassociate from that natural tendency. Again, I’m hesitant to want to join boards, groups, etc that promote an entitled ‘influence’ and continue to see work as something further separated from people. But I do see the need to want to put in place information gained for the greater good of a community.> Blockquote

You should definitely do this. This is the strategy that republicans used to take power starting 40 years ago. School boards and whatnot.

Yes!!! And we need more people holding local offices that get this.

Feeling safe verses being safe has a lot of resonance right now for me. My library system is reopening to limited services and doing everything we can to keep people safe from COVID-19, but because of the newness of the disease (in epidemiological terms), all we can do is follow the best advice out there and hope for the best. We think we are doing what is right and best, but that could always change with time and new information (see: the CDC’s disastrous early March advice about face masks). The issues we are facing are complex and multi-faceted, everyone seems to have a different answer, and it’s hard for non-experts to know what to do and who to trust.

I think a very similar thought process can apply to privacy and things that make us feel safe verses actually being safe. Most people want a silver bullet. They want it to be simple. And despite however many times they fail us, many in society want our institutions to give us the answer and have something valuable to offer us. And it is so much more tempting to outsource the work of privacy to someone who says that they can make it all better than to do the hard work of learning all the tools yourself. Even relatively simple stuff can be frustrating. I have an alphanumeric passcode on my phone now instead of Face ID. It radically increases the time it takes me to unlock my phone, plus, I often mistype it. I think the value of the code is high enough to put up with the frustration, but I can see how other people wouldn’t.

Take another common protection tool: VPNs. With so many options out there, so many reviews, so much back and forth, how can the casual consumer know what choice to make, especially when most leading advocates won’t endorse a specific product for a variety of reasons? I can understand how people’s choices would become random or they would get disheartened and make no choices at all.

I think that local action best looks like demystifying the steps people can take for themselves today and in the short run. Giving people some form of personal power that they can take on will help to educate them on issues and practices and will help give them a knowledge base to make them better advocates for issues in the future. Whether it is 1:1 support in the library, classes, or something more, this can support people from a variety of backgrounds.

We can also support local action by keeping your ear to the ground. You can’t advocate for or against something you don’t know exists. During this talk, I googled to see what communities Ring had contracts with police. I was surprised to find my local community was one of the absolute first, and it was absolutely one of the ones most commonly quoted in these articles. Knowledge is the first step, because if you don’t even know you’re fighting a local battle, you’re pretty much destined to lose it.

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All the talk about feeling vs being safe reminds me of a TED talk I watched years and years ago: The Security Mirage. “Security theater” became a normal part of my vocabulary after watching this talk–all the things we do to FEEL safe even though actually they’re not that effective. And the emphasis on educating people so that their feelings more closely align with reality–that seems right up our alley :slight_smile:

Mind you, I also cringe when this speaker comments about how different generations approach internet security, because I think he really missed the fact that so many tech corporations would be so good at controlling how we perceive risks around privacy, etc.

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